Design by committee: Wikipedia’s Achilles heel

How a I wish for narrower columns of text and borderless illustrations when reading articles on Wikipedia.

(Sigh)

Wikipedia’s internal design team yearns for it too.

But the final result shows how difficult it is to approach design with fiercely democratic ideals. It’s relatively easy for Wikipedia to train great fact checkers (facts are objective—they’re facts after all!). It’s a lot harder to train a great designer. Good visual design is a mix of rules, risk, and taste. There is no one right answer that a community can agree on.

Lending libraries for things

This borrowing shop in Berlin reminds me of using car sharing in San Francisco. It worked very well there because I could rely on a car being available close by when I needed it. Even better, I could rely on the specific kind of car I needed being available. Car sharing in London has been less appealing to me for a few reasons. First, their are fewer cars available. It’s also more expensive here. And to complicate things further, my needs for a car here affect other people more, so I’m not as flexible about time. For example booking a car for the morning school run means coordinating my schedule (and the car’s) to the school start and end times. London traffic makes it hard to predict how long I’ll need the car for any given trip.

But a shop where I could borrow specific tools from time to time…

Abolitionist or Terrorist

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Douglas Egerton contemplates the controversy surrounding a proposed monument to Denmark Vesey whose attempted slave rebellion resulted in his execution in 1826.

For many people, Vesey was a freedom fighter and a proto-civil rights leader. But the statue, the work of nearly two decades, brought out furious counterattacks; one recent critic called him a “terrorist,” and a historian denounced him as “a man determined to create mayhem.”

….

The complexity of Vesey’s story is hard to grasp, and wrestling with slavery and violence is hardly unique to South Carolina; white Southerners may rightly wonder when Manhattan will erect a statue to the slave Caesar Varick, who was burned alive in 1741 for plotting a revolt similar to Vesey’s.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Jerusalem Artichokes with Balsamic Reduction

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Olive oil
  • Balsalmic vinegar (80ml, reduced to 30 or 40ml)
  • Salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200ºC

Wash brussels and remove and wilted leaves. Slice in half sprouts which are larger in diameter than a 2 pence coin. Clean and peel jerusalem artichokes as best you can. Cut them into nice bite sized chucks. Spread brussels sprouts and artichokes onto separate tins or trays and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes  to an hour. Let the brussels sprouts bake until they begin to brown. Some leaves might burn a tiny bit. That’s ok. Artichokes will probably be ready long before brussels.

While everything is in the oven, you can make the balsamic reduction by simmering about 80 ml (two fingers height in small glass) of balsamic vinegar until it becomes syrupy. (Liquid should reduce by half or more.) You can also just buy a bottle of “balsamic glaze”. I usually don’t buy the glaze, because they add sugar to them. But it still tastes great.

Combine the roasted vegetables and pour the reduction over them. You may want to add more olive oil, salt and pepper.